Nel's New Day

November 26, 2018

Conservative Politicians Continue Far-right Activities

Last week, many people vacationed—including Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) vacationed for Thanksgiving, but politicians kept busy.

Sent to the Pacific Rim APEC trade summit last weekend, VP Mike Pence worsened global affairs of 21 nations representing 60 percent of the world’s economy with his refusal to compromise with China. Instead, China continued bonding with North Korea. The conflict was so bad that the group couldn’t even agree on a routine joint statement for the first time in 30 years. DDT frequently asks people if Pence is loyal. The answers have varied from Pence as a committed warrior to ending his usefulness because DDT needs female voters. One of DDT’s concerns might be Pence’s promise of consequences for the Saudis’ killing U.S. journalist Jamal Khashoggi despite DDT’s attempt to cover for the Saudis.

Two days before Thanksgiving, John Kelly, DDT’s chief of staff, signed a “Cabinet order,” a memo allowing U.S. troops, 5,900 active duty members and 2,100 National Guard members, on the Mexico border to use lethal force. DDT had already left town for Mar-a-Lago. This past weekend, ICE agents fired tear gas, a deadly chemical, at mostly Honduran asylum seekers near the Tijuana port of entry.

Hillary Clinton was pilloried for using a secure private server for her emails, but the GOP refused to criticize Ivanka Trump for using her personal email account that she shared with her husband, Jared Kushner, to send hundreds of emails last year to White House aides, Cabinet officials, and her assistants, frequently in violation of federal records rules. When she first joined the White House, she claimed all access and perks of the White House with none of the legal responsibilities or constraints. Maybe investigations by the FBI and Congress? Or cries of “Lock her up” and “Crooked Ivanka”?

Lame duck House Republicans subpoenaed former FBI director James Comey and former DOJ AG Loretta Lynch to appear in private hearings this week. Comey said he is willing to appear in an open hearing but not a closed one:

“While the authority for Congressional subpoenas is broad, it does not cover the right to misuse closed hearings as a political stunt to promote political as opposed to legislative agendas.”

DDT’s appointment of lap dog Matthew Whitaker as acting DOJ AG may fail to give him protection. According to an argument in court from the Robert Mueller investigation team:

“The validity of the Special Counsel’s appointment [in May 2017] cannot be retroactively affected by a change in the official who is serving as the Acting Attorney General.”

Two rulings, one by a DDT-appointed judge, have already upheld the constitutionality of Mueller’s appointment. Three Senate Democrats are also suing to have Whitaker removed on constitutional and legal grounds.

The U.S. Supreme Court is taking a case about whether Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’ decision to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census, an odd move because the case is already being heard in a New York court with closing arguments next week. The Constitution requires an accurate count of the population every ten years, something that will be lost if the estimated 24+ million people avoid the census because of fear. The census is used not only for congressional districting but allocation of federal funds, disaster and epidemic preparedness, and other government support. Ross has skipped the lengthy approval process about new survey questions and lied when he said that the DOJ had requested the addition of a citizenship question to enforce the Voting Rights Act. The Department of Commerce has only six months to submit the information to printers.

More people may not participate in the census after DDT’s proposal that census information be shared with law enforcement, an illegal action under the Census Act of 1879. In 1954, Congress passed a law stating that the Commerce Department cannot share its census data with any other government agency or court with up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines for violation. Only Congress can change this law. When Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) asked acting assistant attorney general John Gore about data being disclosed “for law enforcement or national security purposes,” DOJ attorney Ben Aguinaga answered, “I don’t think we want to say too much there in case the issues . . . or related issues come up later for renewed debate.” In other words, maybe.

DDT may not get the trade agreement similar to and replacing NAFTA that he proudly announced weeks ago. Republican lawmakers are furious about the nondiscrimination protections of sexual orientation and gender identity included by Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Several GOP members of Congress object to the new trade agreement because of this one provision, but it must be passed by the end of the year to avoid the Democratic majority in the House on the first of January. Congress has just 12 days to not only pass the agreement but also agree on the farm bill and keep the government from shutting down on December 7 with DDT threatening to allow this to happen if he doesn’t get his wall.

Farmers hurt by DDT’s tariffs are promised $12 billion say they don’t want to be on the dole, but they’re not even getting the promised welfare. Only $838 million of authorized $6 billion has been paid out because farmers cannot apply until harvests are completed for the season, harvests delayed by bad weather. Soybean sales shrank by 94 percent from last year, and the subsidy covers less than half the farmers’ losses. China pork tariffs that responded to DDT’s steel and aluminum tariffs cost farmers $2 billion. Partners with farmers also get government money; Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) might get $125,000, the subsidy cap. Farmers may permanently lose their foreign countries for crops, and DDT’s tariffs may force the U.S. to keep borrowing money from China to pay for farmers.

For the second year in a row, DDT is skipping the Kennedy Center Honors, again because he doesn’t feel comfortable.

While people in the U.S. complain about Russia interfering with elections, DDT campaign worker and sycophant Steve Bannon played a role in the UK passing Brexit, supporting the nation’s separation from the European Union. Emails dating back to October 2015 reveal that Bannon, former VP of Cambridge Analytic, participated in the campaign to persuade UK voters in supporting the separation from EU. Like the U.S. the UK has laws to stop foreign companies from manipulating UK affairs.

Mississippi votes for a U.S. senator in a runoff tomorrow; the GOP candidate, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, announced last Tuesday that it was on November 22, the day of her announcement, but that was Thanksgiving. After her lauding public hangings, a number of large companies—including Aetna, AT&T, Boston Scientific, Leidos, Pfizer, Union Pacific, and Walmart—asked her to return their donations. DDT, who failed to attending lacked the time to go to Arlington National Cemetery close to the White House or visit military members on Veterans Day, extended his Thanksgiving vacation to give two campaign rallies in Mississippi today for the GOP Senate candidate.

Since the midterm elections when the Senate election to replace Jeff Sessions, who resigned to become AG before he was fired, several revelations have caused concern for Republicans about Hyde-Smith’s success. After she talked favorably about public hangings (aka lynchings), she suggested that black students should not be able to vote. Photos of her posing with Confederate artifacts at the “Shrine of [treasonous] Jefferson Davis” and the caption “Mississippi history at its best!” were accompanied by information that she promoted a measure praising a Confederate soldier’s effort to “defend his homeland” and pushed a revisionist view of the Civil War. She not only attended a private high school to avoid integrated schools but also enrolled her daughter in a “segregation academy.” The daughter graduated in 2017.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), considering a run for president, gave an interview to the New York Times about the reading habits of himself and his family. An analysis of his 33 book recommendations show all were written by white authors. Sasse’s three children, ages 17, 15, and 8, are homeschooled, probably reading no books of people by color.

The Ohio state House argued that “Motherhood is necessary” to ban abortions at six weeks, before a pregnancy appears on an ultrasound which is not medically recommended. The law is unconstitutional unless the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Even if the bill passes the state Senate, it cannot become law without Gov. John Kasich’s signature because Gov.-elect Mike DeVine cannot sign a bill passed by the legislature before he takes office.

On the more positive side, Maine will have Medicaid expansion after the departure of rabidly right-wing Gov. Paul LePage. He had refused to follow orders from the state Supreme Court to obey a vote by the people.

A U.S. district court judge ordered ICE to release over 100 Iraqis from detention centers and jails in Michigan after they had been there for more than a year. They are to be released within 30 days under “orders of supervision” and allowed to return to their homes. The majority of the detainees had been living in the U.S. for decades. Although they committed criminal offenses, they had served their time and been living “peaceably in their respective communities” since then, according to the ruling. The opinion also cites ICE’s refusal to provide documents to detainees’ attorneys, and the judge wrote that he will be issuing sanctions against ICE. Detainees had not been permitted in-person visits from family and friends, and the majority would be persecuted and even murdered if they were forced to return to Iraq because they are Christians.

October 8, 2017

DDT Needs Caretaker

A weekend means interviews on Sunday “news” shows and obnoxious tweets from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). This weekend, DDT declared war on Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), claiming that Corker didn’t have the guts to run for re-election because DDT had refused an endorsement for Corker and turned him down to be Secretary of State after he begged DDT. He also blamed Corker for supporting the Iran deal that keeps Iranians from building nuclear weapons. Both Corker and other sources have said that DDT is lying in his claims about Corker.

DDT’s tantrum came after Corker said that DDT treats his office like “a reality show” with his threats possibly moving the U.S. “on the path to World War III.” Corker said that he is alarmed by a president who acts “like he’s doing The Apprentice or something.” DDT is ignoring his need for Corker’s votes to pass his tax cut legislation and “decertify” the Iranian deal. Corker’s committee also is in control of confirmation hearings for DDT’s ambassadorial appointments. After DDT’s virulent remarks about him, Corker topped off his own tweets with this one:

“It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

On Fox News Sunday, Corker repeated his earlier statement that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is one of three officials helping to “separate our country from chaos.” DDT’s racist comments about neo-Nazis at Charlottesville (VA) earlier caused Corker to say that DDT “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.” Corker said:

“As long as there are people like that around him who are able to talk him down when he gets spun up, you know, calm him down and continue to work with him before a decision gets made, I think we’ll be fine.”

Corker also said that his personal concerns about DDT were shared by almost every GOP senator.

FEMA director, William “Brock” Long, has decided to ignore pleas for help from San Juan (Puerto Rico) Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz because he considers them “political.” She tweeted, “Power collapses in San Juan hospital with 2 patients being transferred out. Have requested support from @FEMA_Brock. NOTHING!” Long said on a morning talk show, “We filtered out the mayor a long time ago.” DDT is still congratulating himself on the wonderful job that he is doing with Puerto Rico and said that he was just having “fun” throwing those “beautiful soft towels.”

Luckily for the people of Puerto Rico, Mexico has joined Germany in sending help to the U.S territory. In spite of two major earthquakes last month, Mexico will send aid to Puerto Rico including water and electricity experts to mitigate damage and help restore the island’s power supply as well as mosquito repellent and 30 tons of bottled water.

While people in Puerto Rico are suffering and dying from lack of food, water, electricity, etc., the U.S. House put its priority on  limiting abortion access. It passed a bill, likely unconstitutional and definitely disproportionately affecting low-income women, that bans abortions after 20 weeks and imprisoning doctors performing the procedure for up to five years. The vote was 237 to 189, with two Democrats supporting it and three Republicans voting nay.

The IRS has given Equifax, the company that allowed the records of 143 million people to be stolen, a $7.5 million contract. The no-bid contract, posted the last day of the fiscal year on September 30, is to verify taxpayer identities and help prevent fraud under a no-bid contract.  During a committee hearing, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) asked former Equifax CEO Richard Smith, “Why in the world should you get a no-bid contract right now?”

Photos of Smith at the hearing have shown Rich Uncle Pennybags, the Monopoly mascot, seated behind Smith as he testified about the computer breach. He rushed off after she tried to give him a bag of “Get out of jail free” cards after the hearing in a protest of plans that allow banks and financial institutions to take advantage of consumers.

DDT’s third Muslim ban is going to court.

DDT’s need for a majority vote has bled down to the DOJ’s violating federal law. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993, states that voter registration maintenance “shall not result in the removal of the name of any person from the official list of voters registered to vote in an election for Federal office by reason of the person’s failure to vote.” Yet AG Jeff Sessions is supporting purging voter registrations because of irregular voting patterns. Ohio, for example, removed 1.2 million voters for infrequent voting. Sessions has not decided that this action is appropriate, despite federal law.

DDT’s magical tax cut plan, labeled as the “middle-class miracle,” has an evaluation from the Tax Policy Center (TPC). According to its study, the plan mostly benefits the rich, raises taxes on some middle-class people, and lowers federal revenue by $2.4 trillion within a decade. Republicans are not happy, but they haven’t offered any evidence of any tax relief to the middle class. The pattern is the same as the GOP plan for healthcare “reform” when Republicans were confused by facts about tens of millions few people having insurance. A chief GOP criticism was that there was no “dynamic” score, meaning one that made up information about an improved economy.

DDT’s latest nominee, this one for the second most powerful EPA position as safety chief, is an employee of the chemical industry. As such, Michael Dourson declared that children are less sensitive to chemical toxicity. His position includes overseeing pesticides and setting safety levels for some of the most dangerous chemicals in use.

Conservationists have had a run of successes in court, a recent one in Washington. A state board overturned two important permits for an immense refinery turning natural gas into methanol because an environmental impact study had not considered greenhouse gas emissions. The product would then be shipped to China to make plastics. The failed project was designated for Kalama (WA), less than an hour north of Portland (OR). This past week a federal judge in San Francisco ordered the reinstatement of a restriction on harmful methane emissions from gas and oil drilling on federal lands after the Interior Department tried to remove it with the excuse that it was a burden to the industry. Judge Elizabeth Laporte ruled that the department had no “reasoned explanation” for allowing energy companies to not capture the polluting methane that wastes about $330 million a year—enough to power five million homes for that year. Before the rule went into effect, a methane cloud the size of Delaware hung over the Four Corners region of New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Colorado from the oil and gas industry.

Only 24 percent of people think that the U.S. is going in the right directions. The change among Republicans has been the most drastic: only 44 percent support the direction, compared to 60 percent just three months ago. Other areas in which people have a high percentage of disapproval toward DDT are handling race relations, foreign policy, and immigration—all with over 60 percent disapproval.

That drop in support may be the reason that DDT sent Mike Pence to Indianapolis today to attend the game between the Colts and the San Francisco 49ers. The sole purpose of the “reality show” was pandering to DDT’s base with  was a photo shoot when Pence walked out after some of the athletes knelt during the national anthem. Pence was so sure he would be leaving that he didn’t bother to take any reporters with him. A Pence aide said that he might be leaving early. The photo sent to the press of the vice-president in a suit with his hand over his heart was actually taken in 2014 when Pence was governor of Indiana. To attend the game, Pence flew from Las Vegas before he immediately returned to a fund-raiser in Los Angeles. (Your taxes at work!)

Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, tweeted:

“Manipulation of faux patriotism took new turn today with VP Pence. Preplanned early exit from Colts game after 49ers kneeled, then tweets.”

Constantly accused of disrespecting the flag, kneeling athletes are protesting police racial brutality and injustice. Anyone questioning this brutality should watch the highly graphic video of a Utah police officer fatally shooting a black man in the back after he was stopped for not having a light on his bicycle. The DA exonerated the police officer who killed Patrick Harmon because the officer said he was afraid.

April 19, 2016

John Kasich, Not ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ or Moderate – Part One

Filed under: Presidential candidates — trp2011 @ 3:24 PM
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With a large number of delegates in New York, today’s vote there could be “make or break” for one or more of the presidential candidates. Polls put John Kasich at 25 percent because Ted Cruz, who polls at 16 percent, has proved so hateful to residents of New York City. Kasich has 144 delegates at this time, 66 of them from his home state in a winner-take-all, and is 20 percent on target to gain the necessary 1237 on July 18 when the GOP meetings in his city of Cleveland. By comparison, Donald Trump, with 756 delegates, is 91 percent on target and Cruz, with 544, is 57 percent.

Kasich has won one state and gotten zero delegates in another 24 contests. He gained a few delegates in another 11 contests. Only 15 contests remain after New York. Marco Rubio dropped out over a month ago, and he still has 173 delegates, more than Kasich. Candidates need to win at least eight states to be eligible for the first vote at the convention: Kasich is short seven of those states.

The GOP establishment is going crazy trying to figure out how to defeat Trump before this summer’s convention, using Cruz to kill Trump before dumping Cruz, and searching for a viable alternative to the original candidates. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has said “no” so many times that he looks like he’s running—just as he said “no” to being Speaker. And Kasich, touted as a “moderate” and Mr. Nice Guy is making no progress. Meanwhile, Kasich is a bridegroom who stands before the minister at a wedding, just hoping that the groom will drop dead so that Kasich can snag the bride.

Kasich is the best choice if—horrors!—the Dems lose the upcoming election, right? He’s a moderate, right? Wrong!!! The man is anti-women, anti-union, anti-Social Security, anti-public schools, anti-LGBT, and anti-Obamacare, and pro-gun, pro-charter schools, pro-tax breaks for the wealthy, pro-privatization of prisons and schools, pro-fracking, and pro-banks. Plus he cares nothing for the climate: early on, he said that the climate might be changing, but “it doesn’t mean because you pursue a policy of being sensitive to the environment.”

His record as Ohio governor, helped by a $1 million donation from Fox’s Rupert Murdoch to the Republican Governor’s Association, shows how he would rule the United States:

Corporations: Kasich’s allegiance is to the corporation “persons.” Before his election he sold junk assets for the now-defunct Lehman Brothers investment bankers to Ohio’s public retirement system, especially the teacher’s pensions–$500 million of them. He refuses to tell how many millions he made while looting retirement funds. When Lehman Brothers collapsed in the Panic of 2008, he was managing director of its Ohio division.

Teachers: Immediately after he became governor, Kasich stopped any teacher salary increases based on seniority and gutted collective bargaining for 360,000 public union workers. The 1.3 million signatures to repeal the bill led to the loss of the anti-union law 61 percent to 39 percent. Kasich has so little respect for teachers that he said, “So if I were, not president, but if I were king in America, I would abolish all teachers’ lounges, where they sit together and worry about, ‘Woe is us.'” In a survey, 96 percent of Ohio teachers said they wouldn’t support John Kasich for president, and almost 80 percent of Republican educators rating his impact on state education as “extremely negative.”

Education: Kasich helped found the Koch brothers’ American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which writes and promotes laws to suppress poor and minority voters. Part of ALEC’s guidelines is to destroy public education. Kasich cut more than $500,000 from public education while giving charter schools an increase of 27 percent, $57 million, greatly helping White Hat Management whose owner is a big Republican donor. The husband of Kasich’s campaign manager is David Hansen who resigned as director of charter school operations after he presented false data to the feds to win a $71 million grant to create more charter schools. Ohio has nearly 10 times as many failing charter schools, as many as high-performing schools, as it first reported to the U.S. Department of Education in its 2015 charter-school-expansion grant application. In fact, achievement in Ohio’s charter schools fell significantly below the state’s regular public schools. Before Kasich took office in 2011, Ohio ranked fifth in the nation in public education. Now it ranks 23rd.

Medicaid: Kasich is known for being a GOP governor accepting Medicaid from the Affordable Care Act, but his legislature passed a law last year requiring Medicaid recipients to pay for their coverage through a health-savings account by 2018. Fortunately, the federal government has to approve the law, but Kasich probably assumed that he would be president then.

Jobs: Under Kasich, Ohio became one of the two worst economics in the nation by 2013. Promising to create new jobs, Ohio found just 5,289 jobs in the first eight months of 2014. Despite all the jobs that could have come from building a train line that would restore passenger service among Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, he killed its possibility, and the $400 million already secured left the state. Columbus is the Western world’s largest capital city without passenger rail service.

Alternative Energy: Kasich signed a bill that froze the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards at their present levels for two years just six weeks after David Koch donated $12,155 to Kasich’s re-election campaign. The law could have cost $456 to implement while saving Ohio residents $1.03 billion.

Water: Toledo is suffering from toxic water, and Ohio permits radioactive fracking water dumped in the state from Pennsylvania and West Virginia. At the same time, he set up a fracktivist “enemies list” targeting environmentalists for harassment.

LGBT Rights: Kasich is 90 percent anti-LGBT in all areas, even objecting to “civil unions.” The Human Rights Campaign gave Kasich a 10 percent out of 100 percent rating for LGBT equality. Most of the time now he tries to avoid answering any questions about LGBT issues, but he slipped up when he responded to the new discriminatory law in North Carolina: “There is a legitimate concern for people being able to have their deeply-held religious beliefs…. If people would just calm down here, I think things would settle down…. If you feel as though somebody’s doing something wrong against you… can you just get over it? You know?”

Taxes: The rich do better in Ohio because of their 21-percent decrease in taxes while the state budget is balanced on the backs of local governments. Proceeds of the inheritance tax on the top 1 percent largely went to counties and municipalities; Kasich disappeared it. His goal is to completely eliminate Ohio’s income tax by 2016 and use the $2 billion “rainy day fund” erasing more services for education, prisons, sewage treatment facilities, deteriorating roads, disintegrating bridges—all formerly funded by the state income tax and inheritance taxes. His new system will increase taxes for seniors and disabled Ohioans by eliminating a homestead property tax exemption. In the meantime, local governments will have to raise property taxes by 12.5 percent to fund schools, again hitting seniors on fixed incomes.

Gerrymandering: Kasich and his legislature gerrymandered congressional districts to give three-fourths of House seats to the GOP with no competition. Kasich was re-elected partially because of Ohio’s Secretary of State’s decision that each of the state’s 88 counties would have only one early voting site. A county with over one million voters had the same number—one—as a county with 10,000 voters. Kasich also tried to remove the Libertarian Party from the ballot before a federal court blocked him.

Prisons: Kasich failed to further privatize prisons, but he did hire Aramark for prison food service, a company famous for serving maggots to prisoners. He also cut prison security staff in a rising prison population suffering from overcrowding and dangerous conditions.

In addition, Kasich has opposed the auto rescue that saved and created jobs in Ohio and vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He also wants to create a federal agency to promote “Judeo-Christian Western values” around the world.

Kasich tends to change his mind on more progressive issues, wanting to say what conservatives want to hear. He began his position on the president’s decision to appoint Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court by saying he could consider him as his own nominee. Kasich advocated showing Garland “respect” by granting him a meeting—until he didn’t. That was early Saturday. Later that day, he said he was merely being “polite.” Talking to reporters, he said, “He’s not gonna be my pick for the Supreme Court.” He also made a reference to the Second Amendment, indicating that the NRA had passed along their disapproval of Garland.

While Kasich is trying to appear friendly and compassionate by hugging them and telling them to take a widow to dinner, he has a long history of anger and irrational criticism. Pulled over in Ohio, he repeatedly called the police officer an “idiot.” He consistently blames Democrats, even at bill signings, and GOP allies are very careful around him. A few years ago, he said, “If you’re not on the bus, we will run over you with the bus. I’m not kidding.”

There’s so much to say about John Kasich that this is only Part One. Part Two will include his views on women, blacks, and taxes.

November 7, 2015

Will Computer Hackers Determine Elections?

“Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me.” It’s an old saying that might be true in Ohio during the most recent election. A proposed constitutional amendment to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana miserably failed with a tally of almost two-to-one. I assumed that many of the no votes came from people who disagreed with the part of the amendment that would give sales control to just t, essentially a monopoly. According to Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, the vote may have a much darker reason. Their article, published in the Columbus Free Press, claims that “televised screen shots taken Tuesday night of live election returns in Ohio provided by the Secretary of State’s office showed hundreds of thousands of votes flipping from the “yes” to “no” column of Issue 3, the ballot measure to legalize marijuana.”

Secretary of State Jon Husted, the man who provided the election returns, was “vehemently opposed” to the measure, Issue 3, and “threatened its proponents with legal action.” Live television showed the flips of hundreds of thousands of votes going from yes to no in just minutes. The shot on the right was taken just 11 minutes after the one on the right although the number of reporting precincts increased by only 6 percent. The first screenshot, with 39 percent of precincs reporting, showed the measure ahead by 65 to 35 percent.

television shot 1

television shot 2

 

Ohio has a history of voting problems.

 

Over a decade ago, James Q. Jacobs published a lengthy article about the “voter irregularities and anomalies” that may have caused John Kerry to lose Ohio—and the presidency of the United States. He claims that an analysis of Cuyahoga County votes shows that Kerry votes were changed to George W. Bush votes. In a study of 166,953 votes, one of every 34 Ohio voters, the Kerry-Bush margin shifted six percent through punch card cross-voting. Jacobs said, “Seven-eighths of voters in heavily-Democratic Cuyahoga County, more than one of every eight Ohio Kerry voters, could have cross-voted at an adjacent precinct using the wrong ballot order.” By Ohio statutory requirement, candidate names rotate to the top of the ballot list an equal number of times. If ballots cast for one precinct are counted with a different precinct’s ballot order, the votes can be reversed or assigned to a third-party candidates, a situation that had an unusually high incidence in several Cuyahoga County precincts.

An investigation by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that “some of [the] concerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes.”

The CEO of one of the most crucial suppliers of electronic voting machines, Warren O’Dell of Diebold, pledged before the 2004 campaign to deliver Ohio and thus the presidency to George W. Bush. In 2004, Bush’s margin of victory was only 118,775 out of 5.6 million votes, 800,000 of them cast on electronic voting machines.

Other GAO conclusions:

Some electronic voting machines “did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, and it was possible to alter both without being detected,” meaning than an entire vote count can be slipped.

“It was possible to alter the files that define how a ballot looks and works so that the votes for one candidate could be recorded for a different candidate.”

“Vendors installed uncertified versions of voting system software at the local level,” leaving the opportunity to use altered memory cards.

The GAO also confirms that access to the voting network was easily compromised because not all digital recording electronic voting systems (DREs) had supervisory functions password-protected. Access to one machine provided access to the whole network allowing a small group of people to change large numbers of votes.

Access to the voting network was also compromised by repeated use of the same user IDs combined with easily guessed passwords.

The locks protecting access to the system were easily picked and keys were simple to copy, meaning, again, getting into the system was an easy matter.

One DRE model was shown to have been networked in such a rudimentary fashion that a power failure on one machine would cause the entire network to fail.

A voting machine in Mahoning County recorded a negative 25 million votes for Kerry. Election officials in that county also agreed that voters reporting at least 18 machines visibly transferred votes for Kerry to Bush. Franklin County voters experienced the same problem, and dozens of voters swore that their vote for Kerry disappeared without a paper trail. Kerry’s margins were very low in both counties compared to exit polls. In Gahanna Ward 1B, recording 638 people voting, Bush had almost 4,000 extra votes. On 1:43 am after Election Day, Miami County reported an additional 19,000 votes after the central tabulator had reported 100 percent of the vote; 13,000 of the votes were for Bush. Shelby and  other counties admitted that they discarded key records and equipment before any recount could take place.

In 2007, Lawrence County officials reported votes going to the wrong candidates. At the end of an election that year, a tally printed and posted on the door of the county precinct got numbers one way, but a tabulation machine at the county’s headquarters flipped the numbers, exchanging the number of votes for two candidates. E-voting machines were made by Election Systems & Software. Lawrence County Election Director Catherine Overbeck didn’t say how they determined which tabulations were correct.

Furious with President Obama’s 2008 win, Karl Rove promised to deliver Ohio for Mitt Romney in 2012. Fox network called the Ohio vote for President Obama soon after 11:00 pm, but Rove told them to wait. He claimed a shift to the right immediately after 11:00 am as it had in 2004. That’s when the GOP secretary of state, Ken Blackwell, called SMARTech to fix the computers that had just gone down, and they rerouted he vote through its company in Chattanooga. Kerry’s lead reversed by over 6 percent. SMARTech’s top client was the Bush-Cheney campaign, and the company worked for Jeb Bush and the Republican National Committee. Journalist Craig Unger gives the details in his book, Boss Rove.

In 2012, Rove predicted the same reversal from the same counties that had flipped right in 2004. It never happened, and Karl Rove’s jaw dropped. I watched him as the votes kept on coming for President Obama in Ohio. Here is his meltdown.

A few weeks before Election Day, Anonymous, a hacktivist group, issued a video statement warning Rove that he was being watched. Two days after Election Day, Anonymous released a press statement claiming that it prevented Rove’s attempt to steal the 2012 election for Romney.

 “We began following the digital traffic of one Karl Rove…After a rather short time, we identified the digital structure of Karl’s operation and even that of his ORCA. This was an easy task in that barn doors were left open and the wind swept us inside.”

“ORCA” was a Romney’s high-tech get-out-the-vote system to keep tabs on potential voters and to target who hadn’t voted yet on Election Day. Anonymous claimed that ORCA’s purpose was to rig the vote and that the group blocked Rove’s access to “digital tunnels” for vote changing.

Election Day is one year from tomorrow. The United States is the only major democracy that allows private partisan corporations to secretly count and tabulate the votes with proprietary non-transparent software. As of now computers are no better than they were when Ohio gave George W. Bush the presidency in 2004, and Karl Rove was positive that the state would put Mitt Romney into the presidency in 2012. Matt Bevin won governor in Kentucky by a tidy margin despite polls indicating either a Democratic win or a very tight margin. How many elections in the United States have been decided by those in power who are willing to electronically steal elections for their own benefit? We won’t know because the government refuses to provide the same security that computers in banks and large corporations require. Will computer hackers decide the presidency of the United States in 2016?

May 16, 2015

Eight-second Bits for Your Weekend

gallery-thumbnailsTwitter has reduced information to 144 characters, and texting has decreased communication to far shorter bits. With the industrialized world concentrating on the brevity of technology, people now lose concentration after eight seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. To put this bit of information into perspective, the average attention span for a goldfish is nine seconds. The following information has been chopped up into eight-second—or less—sections.

The media has been abuzz with Jeb Bush’s whirling this past week that went much farther than flip-flopping. Asked whether he would have attacked Iraq if he knew then what the world knows now, he produced a series of answers: yes, I misheard, I misinterpreted, I can’t answer because it’s a hypothetical, I can’t answer because it does a “disservice” to people in the service, and finally—or most recently—“I would not invade.”

A non-scientific poll of over 2,000 Republican voters has put Jeb at .85 percent, somewhere below Sarah Palin write-ins. In the same poll, 60 percent of the respondents said that they wouldn’t vote for a president in 2016 if he were the candidate. And that was before the problems in the past week. We can look forward to the next “scientific” survey to see if that opinion holds.

bush graphHouse Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) likes Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), saying that “he showed he was fairly deft in his ability to smoothly answer those same questions.” Chaffetz might be questioned about his opinion after Rubio’s speech last weekend at South Carolina’s “Freedom Summit” when Rubio told the audience that his approach to terrorism comes from the film Taken: “We will look for you, we will find you and we will kill you.” Rubio might want to polish his policy a little.

Who’s the “greatest living president”? CNN’s Chris Moody asked this question of several possible and real GOP presidential candidates at the “Freedom Summit” event. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Donald Trump came up with Ronald Reagan. (For those who haven’t kept up with recent events, he died almost 11 years ago, and the question didn’t ask “alive in our hearts.”)

Republicans can’t say Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, or Barack Obama which leaves them with a Bush—both of whom invaded the Middle East. Reagan is about all the GOP has, however, because Bush II caused the Middle East problems, Bush I raised taxes, Nixon had to resign, and Hoover started the Great Recession. That leaves Eisenhower who developed a great deal of the country’s infrastructure, and the GOP hates infrastructure.

A Public Policy Poll determined that only 40 percent of Republicans think that the U.S. doesn’t plan to invade Texas—forgetting that Texas is part of the U.S. Almost one-third of GOP voters think the government wants “to take over Texas,” and another 28 percent aren’t sure. The strongest believers are supporters of Cruz and former Texas Gov. Rick. Among Tea Partiers, half said yes to the idea of a conspiracy, and 25 percent aren’t sure. That leaves only one-fourth of Tea Partiers who don’t believe in the myth. (For those leaning toward belief in the takeover, Jade Helm 15 is a military exercise to train people for the Middle East.)

“Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely,” according to both Lord Acton and later George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Several state legislators have suffered from this problem in the past year. New York’s criminal indictment against the Democrat state Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver, in January was preceded by indictments against Republican House Speakers Bobby Harrell (SC) and Mike Hubbard (AL)–all for misuse of money. The most recent criminal indictment against a state House Speaker, however, was against Missouri’s John Diehl for sexual texting with a teenage intern. The texts were discovered in April, but Diehl denied them until this past week when he confessed. The anti-birth control, anti-choice, anti-LGBT, anti-safety net, anti-health care, anti-union, pro-family values House Speaker then waited a few days to resign, probably hoping that his problems would blow over. The 49-year-old ex-House Speaker is married with three children. Missouri Family Policy Council, the state affiliate of the Family Research Council, had earlier praised the speaker “for demonstrating moral leadership and true integrity”; Diehl’s website features “personal responsibility.”

In Vermont, state Sen. Norm McAllister, one of nine Republicans n the 30-member chamber, refuses to resign while facing felony sexual-assault charges. Charges include sexual assault and prohibited acts for demanding sex from tenants to offset rent payments, raping an employee, and attempting to have a woman provide sex to farm workers. The dairy and goat farmer lost a possible $20,000 agricultural grant for his farm after his arrest, and conviction could mean a life sentence. He can keep legislative his seat until then.

What’s more pathetic than a man going blind because he refused to get “Obamacare”? Maybe blaming his lack of health insurance on President Obama. South Carolina self-employed Luis Lang, 49, lives in a house worth $300,000 and used to take pride in not having health insurance. After a series of mini-strokes, bleeding in his eye, and a partially-detached retina tied to diabetes cost him almost $10,000 in health care, he changed his mind. The Affordable Care Act would have let him get a subsidy for health insurance because his income/assets were too high for Medicaid and he couldn’t be turned down for pre-existing conditions. Lang decided to get insurance a few weeks after the 2015 enrollment deadline, and Medicaid isn’t a possibility because South Carolina refuses to expand the program, free to the state with federal dollars.

Lang and his wife blame President Obama and congressional Democrats. Mary Lang said, “[My husband] should be at the front of the line because he doesn’t work and because he has medical issues. We call it the Not Fair Health Care Act.” Where was she when he could have enrolled 30 months ago? According to his (semi-illiterate) GoFundMe page, he knew about his serious health problems 18 months ago. The Langs learned absolutely nothing about the disaster they have made of their lives because they hate the president and the Democrats.

Crooksandliars.com suggested a way to solve Lang’s dilemma: the new Apple Watch. During a stop in Tempe (AZ), Jeb Bush suggested that people won’t need health care insurance in the future because of the Watch’s health apps. Jeb’s using his Watch to lose weight with the Paleo diet, the latest trendy diet, which is high in saturated fats by trying to replicate what people assume a diet from two million years ago. Some people swear by it; other studies show that it may cause brain change such as a “know-it-all” attitude, dementia, and memory loss. Maybe that was Jeb’s problem with answer the question about attacking Iraq again.

North Carolina has suffered from accusations of unconstitutional voter practices, but officials may not escape the most recent one. Federal law requires states to encourage voter registration in every state office, including public assistance and motor vehicle, but an analysis shows that the inauguration of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in 2013 caused the program to collapse. Up to 40,000 poverty-level citizens in the state may have been disenfranchised because 75 percent of visitors to state public assistance offices were never asked if they wanted to vote. Many offices don’t even stock voter registration application forms. Although the state Department of Health and Human Services expressed surprise at the finding, the State Board of Elections said they had been trying to get the DHHS to address to the issue and proved it with over 60 emails and calendar entries for meetings.

Ohio plans a more direct approach to eliminate low-income voters: 24 GOP members of the state House have co-sponsored a bill to charge Ohio citizens for the ID card required for voting, in essence a poll tax forbidden by the U.S. Constitution. Legislators claim that this will stop voter fraud, a problem found in 0.002397 percent of votes cast in the 2012 election. The bill exempts individuals with an annual income of $11,770 in 2015, but it’s still unconstitutional.

All news is not bad. The Vatican is preparing to sign a treaty which will recognize Palestine as a country. Israel, which refuses to grant legitimacy to their neighboring country, and the U.S. right-wing will have another reason to hate Pope Francis.

 

In an oddity from Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that President Obama’s sociability—or lack thereof—has “no effect on policy.” He said that the two of them didn’t do much together because “we don’t agree on much.” Conservative columnist David Brooks has argued that the president and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) could understand each other better if the legislator were invited to the White House for lunch. Brooks thinks that schmoozing makes all the difference. Lots of other people have agreed with Brooks. McConnell has blown up the urban myth.

 

gallery-thumbnailsNow you can check your goldfish to see how long it pays attention to you.

September 29, 2014

SCOTUS: Future, Ginsburg Criticisms

Filed under: Elections,Judiciary — trp2011 @ 8:34 PM
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On the first day of the U.S. Supreme Court’s new session, and the conservative justices are already voiding citizens’ rights, temporarily stopping early voting in Ohio which was scheduled to begin tomorrow. The 5-4  vote to reverse a federal appeals court decision stays in effect until SCOTUS acts on the state officials’ appeal, which has not yet been formally filed. If that is denied, the order lapses. The order could also mean that early voting will not be permitted on most Sundays and after 5: pm, perhaps the only time that low-income people can vote.The ruling may also suppress the vote in Arkansas, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin. (The five conservative justices from left to right: Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Thomas, Kennedy)

supreme court justices What other damage can the conservative Court do in the current session? Ian Millhiser and Nicole Flatow identify major cases and issues for this term:

Pregnancy Discrimination: UPS refused to put Peggy Young on “light duty,” not lifting over 20 pounds, after she got pregnant although the company would have permitted this if she had broken her arm. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals supported UPS, but even pro-life groups object because the decision might cause women to get abortions. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers from treating pregnant women differently from other employees who are “similar in their ability, or inability, to work.” Considering the SCOTUS ruling against Lilly Ledbetter’s fair pay lawsuit, pregnancy women are likely to lose.

Racial Gerrymandering: One judge called the method for Alabama’s redrawn legislative districts as “naked ‘racial quotas’” because black voters were packed into a few districts. Considering the Court’s history against voting rights, black voters are likely to lose.

Facebook and the First Amendment: In Elonis v. United States, plaintiff Anthony Elonis threatened to kill his wife on social media: “There’s one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts. Hurry up and die, bitch, so I can bust this nut all over your corpse from atop your shallow grave. I used to be a nice guy but then you became a slut. Guess it’s not your fault you liked your daddy raped you. So hurry up and die, bitch, so I can forgive you.” The wife saw the comments as threatening, but Elonis said he didn’t mean them literally and called it art. A lower court ruled that his words were a “true threat,” but pro-life groups and anti-abortion protesters claim that an objective standard infringes on the First Amendment right to protest.

Religious Liberty in Prison: Abdul Maalik Muhammad is considered a dangerous prisoner. He wants to grow a beard because of his religious beliefs, but Arkansas officials claim that a beard could conceal contraband or weapons.

Israel and Palestine: For almost seven decades, the U.S. has been neutral about Jerusalem as an international city until Congress passed a law in 2002 that passports can list Israel as the birthplace for U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem. Both Presidents George W. Bush and Obama refused to invoke the law because it interferes with the president’s exclusive authority over American foreign policy.

Cops Apprehending People by Mistake:  North Carolina troopers pulled over Nicholas Heien for having a broken tail light and found cocaine when they searched the car. Because having just one non-working tail light isn’t a state law violation, Heien claimed that the search was invalid because the police had no basis for stopping him. The state Supreme Court upheld the search by 4-3.

Marriage Equality: The question is whether SCOTUS will take a case in which all the federal appeals courts have agreed.

Hobby Lobby Redux: After SCOTUS laid a minefield across the country by ruling that a business can be “religious,” it may feel the need to clarify how far businesses can go to eliminate workers’ ability to obtain birth control coverage—or to commit any other illegal behavior.

Abortion: Several cases on TRAP laws, sham health regulations to restrict access to abortion, are in the federal court system. In its last term SCOTUS agreed to hear a case concerning whether a state may enact a law that restricted access to medication abortion. The Court dismissed the case before reaching the merits. With many new anti-abortion laws at the state level, SCOTUS may tackle the issue.

Affordable Care Act: The federal courts currently have consensus in accepting ACA after the decision of two judges ruling against the health care law were withdrawn because the full appeals court decided to hear the case. Politics, however, may cause the four conservative judges to take on a case in this area.

At least one of those four judges, possibly Chief Justice John Roberts, may realize that taking on cases without federal court dissension opens up the Court to further charges of putting politics before the law and diminish the prestige of the highly unpopular court. In his confirmation he promised promising an age of apolitical comity. “It’s a high priority to keep any kind of partisan divide out of the judiciary as well,” Roberts said.

As Garrett Epps wrote in The Atlantic: 

 “The Supreme Court’s 2013 term began with oral argument in a divisive, highly political case about campaign finance and concluded with two 5-4 decisions of divisive, highly political cases, one about public-employee unions and the other about contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. In all three cases, the result furthered a high-profile objective of the Republican Party. In all three cases, the voting precisely followed the partisan makeup of the Court, with the five Republican appointees voting one way and the four Democratic appointees bitterly dissenting. In all three cases, the chief voted with the hard-right position. By the end of the term, the polarization Roberts had seen in the nation had clearly spread to the Court.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become more and more open in her dissatisfaction of her Court. In an interview with Jeffrey Rosen for The New Republic, she discussed a wide variety of topics:

On differences if Justice Sandra Day O’Connor had stayed on the Court: “She would have been with us in Citizens United, in Shelby County, probably in Hobby Lobby, too…. I think she must be concerned about some of the Court’s rulings, those that veer away from opinions she wrote.”

Regarding former Chief Justice Rehnquist and Roberts: “As to [Roberts’] decisions, there’s not a major shift. I’m hoping that as our current chief gets older, he may end up the way Rehnquist did when he wrote for the Court upholding the Family and Medical Leave Act. That’s a decision you wouldn’t have believed he would ever write when he joined the Court in the early 70s. Chief Justice Rehnquist also decided that, as much as he disliked the Miranda decision, it had become police culture and he wasn’t going to overrule it.”

Regarding the 60 percent of the cases that were unanimous: “That figure is deceptive because of the disagreement among people who joined the ultimate judgment. In some of the leading cases, those disagreements were marked. For example, the recess-appointment case. The Court was unanimous that Obama’s appointments to the NLRB [National Labor Relations Board] were invalid, but divided on the first two questions posed in that case: Does the president have the authority to exercise the recess power when Congress takes an intra-session recess or only when the recess occurs between sessions of Congress? The second question was, when must the vacancy occur? Must it occur during the recess? Or can the president fill up vacancies that existed before the recess? Those are questions of major importance and the Court divided sharply on the answers.”

Worst ruling of the current Court: “If there was one decision I would overrule, it would be Citizens United. I think the notion that we have all the democracy that money can buy strays so far from what our democracy is supposed to be. So that’s number one on my list. Number two would be the part of the health care decision that concerns the commerce clause. Since 1937, the Court has allowed Congress a very free hand in enacting social and economic legislation. I thought that the attempt of the Court to intrude on Congress’s domain in that area had stopped by the end of the 1930s. Of course health care involves commerce. Perhaps number three would be Shelby County, involving essentially the destruction of the Voting Rights Act. That act had a voluminous legislative history. The bill extending the Voting Rights Act was passed overwhelmingly by both houses, Republicans and Democrats, everyone was on board. The Court’s interference with that decision of the political branches seemed to me out of order. The Court should have respected the legislative judgment. Legislators know much more about elections than the Court does. And the same was true of Citizens United. I think members of the legislature, people who have to run for office, know the connection between money and influence on what laws get passed.”

Overturning Roe v. Wade: “Women who can’t pay are the only women who would be affected…. It will take people who care about poor women… There is no big constituency out there concerned about access restrictions on poor women.”

About her dissents: “Sometimes one must be forceful about saying how wrong the Court’s decision is.”

The full interview is here.

September 26, 2014

Voter Suppression, Solutions

A new form of voter suppression has appeared in North Carolina where Americans for Prosperity, partially funded by the Koch brothers, sent incorrect voter registration information to voters in the state and one cat. Hundreds of recipients have called the State Board of Elections about the form that they received with the wrong information:

  • At the top, the form states voter registrations are due 30 days before an election to the State Board of Elections’ office. Below, in smaller type, it states the deadline is 25 days before the election. The information must be sent to the county elections board, not the state board.
  • The first page also states people should return the registration to the N.C. Secretary of State’s office, though the envelope is addressed to the State Board of Elections.
  • It states the Secretary of State’s office has an elections division and can answer questions about registration. The North Carolina Secretary of State does not handle elections. The phone number for the Secretary of State’s office is actually for the State Board of Elections.
  • The form states that after voters mail in their information, they will be notified of their precinct by their local county clerk. Notification comes from the county board of elections or the elections director, not the county clerk.
  • The registration form also includes the wrong ZIP code for the State Board of Elections. The ZIP code associated with the board’s post office box is 27611, and the board’s office ZIP code is 27603.

A form sent to Alison Beal of Wake Forest was addressed to her brother-in-law who lives in Caldwell. Neither one belongs to Americans for Prosperity.

Adam C. Nicholson, a spokesman for Americans for Prosperity, refused to say how many people were sent the forms, how the group obtained the voter lists, or how the mistakes occurred. Another spokesman, Levi Russell, said that people need to look at the forms in context with an otherwise “highly successful” voter registration drive. North Carolina is the same state where Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R) was forced to change his television commercials because it gave misleading information about a new identification requirement that doesn’t go into effect until 2016.

Conservative lawmakers claimed that their new voting laws, the most restrictive and suppressive in the nation, would reduce fraud. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on a lawsuit yesterday. Thomas Farr, one of the lawyers representing the state, justified the repressive laws because nothing “horrible” happened in the May primary. said the provisions didn’t hinder minority voting in the May primary, saying nothing “horrible” had happened. Another argument against allowing people to vote is that it would be a burden for the state because it had already mailed a 30-page pamphlet to households and would have to “re-educate” voters and “let them know the new rules with the election underway.”

Judge Henry Floyd asked, “Does an administrative burden trump a constitutional right?” Judge James Wynn also questioned the seriousness of long lines at polling places, people going to wrong precincts, and the need to count same-day voter registrations by hand if they reinstated the former procedures. “How come the state of North Carolina doesn’t want people to vote?” Wynn asked.

Last Monday, a U.S. District Court heard closing arguments in the case that challenges voter suppression of 600,000 people in Texas because of the narrow number of photo IDs that can be used to vote. There is no indication of when the court will issue its ruling.

Ohio has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to delay a federal judge’s order that expands the state’s early voting schedule this fall. Without help from SCOTUS, people can start casting early ballots next week.

One solution for voting problems is to modernize registration at the state level. Voters are told they aren’t registered in the right place, that their address hasn’t been updated, and that their name is misspelled. Some of them have been wrongly removed from the rolls.

A uniform early voting period would remove states’ abilities to restrict the time to vote and reduce long voting lines. Another way to reduce waiting time at the polls is to establish standards for voting machines per capita. During the last election, some states saw almost no waiting time in predominantly white precincts and many hours in precincts with mostly black voters.

The federal government could also research problems with computers for voting and perhaps the owners. For example, Karl Rove had a deep involvement with the voting computers used in Ohio in the 2004 presidential election, which coincidentally had abnormalities bringing the state in for George W. Bush. In 2012, Rove guaranteed that Ohio would go for Mitt Romney, resulting in rumors that hackers changed the rigged computer software that would have provided this. Certainly, Rove’s face on Election Night showed his disbelief that Ohio went for President Obama in 2012.

The Election Assistance Commission needs to be strengthened. Without commissioners or a permanent executive director, the EAC had long been dysfunctional. Currently all four commissioner positions are vacant.

To give voters greater freedom for voting personal choice, employers need to be stopped from controlling political activity outside the job. Only four states--California, Colorado, New York and North Dakota–protect workers from being fired for legal activity outside of work. Federal law makes it illegal to “intimidate, threaten or coerce” anyone against voting as they wish, but the connection between possible coercion or intimidation and “worker education” is rather fuzzy in the eyes of the law. The federal government has mostly chosen to let states, including the ones that promote voter suppression, to decide questions of employee free speech. About half of people in the United States live in states that do not provide any worker protection for political speech or from pressure, such as threat of job loss, to vote in a specific way.

In New Mexico, a signed letter saying that a person was fired because of carrying an Obama tote bag is no protection without litigation. The Supreme Court has strongly expanded “employer free speech,” giving them the rights to pay millions and millions of dollars to elect a specific candidate. Employees need the same right.

In their goal of suppressing the votes for the poor, the elderly, and minorities, Republicans will undoubtedly oppose any such moves, but these are ways to move the country toward the concept of one person, one vote.

Update in Georgia: After Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp refused to process 51,000 voter registrations from the New Georgia Project, black lawmakers in the state are demanding answers about the status of these registrations. NGP has reportedly submitted about 85,000 applications to county election officials in the state. Kemp staffers said they would “move expeditiously” to process the registrations before the October 6 deadline. That’s ten days. The office, however, was unable to provide adequate details about how the process would be carried out, according to state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler. Kemp claimed that they had found several dozen suspicious applications after they sent letters to 159 counties in a concern for fraud.

The excuse for refusing to let people register or vote is always a concern that changing the rules so close to the election would cause voter confusion. This is the excuse from Alexander Peters, North Carolina’s senior deputy attorney general, who noted in arguments before the 4th Circuit Court yesterday that absentee ballots were mailed Sept. 5. Thanks to television ads from conservatives, voters in at least that state are already confused. So are voters in Wisconsin just increased voter suppression, thanks to a GOP three-judge panel.

North Carolina resident Rosanell Eaton, 93, remembers her registering to vote in 1939 when she turned 18. Three white officials told her that she had to recite the preamble to the U.S. Constitution before she could vote. She did it perfectly. Seventy-five years later, she and many others are once again facing obstacles to voting because of white conservatives. As Wynn asked, “How come the state of North Carolina doesn’t want people to vote?” That’s a question that could be asked in the majority of states in the United States of America.

July 9, 2013

The GOP Looks for a Few Good Vaginas

Distress with the majority of women voting for Democrats during the 2012 general election, the GOP is trying to bring the fairer sex back to the fold. A practical way would be to change some of its policies such as denying women our reproductive rights, equal pay, immigration laws, etc. Maybe even stop being patronizing and controlling. But that isn’t their approach. After an expensive report revealed that a majority of women are not happy with the GOP platform, leaders set out to tell women that Republicans like women.

For example, Rep. Renee Ellmers and 18 other Republican women put together the Republican Women’s Policy Committee with a really nice website and Facebook page to show women that the GOP party likes women. http://rwpc.ellmers.house.gov/  It’s got really nice photographs of women legislators unlike the real ones when all the male lawmakers get together to make life harder for women. And it’s got promises like telling people that the GOP will protect women from being forced to have health insurance.

The latest GOP endeavor is Project Grow which stands for “Growing Republican Opportunities for Women.” (It’s also an acronym for “Gerrymandering Republicans Oppose Women.”) “We need to be a party that allows talented women to rise to the top,” according to the RNC publicity. The GOP still hasn’t figured out that women can be annoyed by the control thing of being “allowed” to do something which is actually their right. Needing a woman to lead the grow project, the GOP selected as a leader Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who opposes pay-equity measures for women and voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The GOP has a ways to go to “allow” women into their camp. The House Democratic Caucus is one-third women compared to the 8 percent of women in the House GOP majority. Last year almost twice as many Democratic women filed paperwork to run for the House as Republicans, and over three times as many Democratic women were elected.

In the new legislative session this year, state lawmakers have introduced over 300 bills to eradicate women’s reproductive rights. The House passed an anti-abortion bill, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is working on one in his chamber.

Project Grow was launched just before the week of the Fourth of July when both Ohio and Wisconsin passed unconstitutional anti-choice bills. Texas would also have succeeded if the media hadn’t pointed out that the GOP leadership cheated by changing the time clock. Now Texas, accompanied by North Carolina, is charging along toward a more successful outcome for the conservatives, despite the vast majority of voters opposing their bill.

Sarah Slamen, 28, tried to explain the facts of life to the legislators while testifying. Three men had to haul her out of the court because she was giving very uncomfortable information to them. This is one women that the GOP will not get to “grow.” [The video is well-worth watching!]  In an interview with Daily Kos, state Sen. Jane Nelson said that Slamen was being disrespectful but never stopped the 13 hours of testimony that “called women murderers, killers, promiscuous, thoughtless, and selfish.”

Part of Slamen’s statement was to be the way that Gov. Rick Perry’s sister, Milla Perry Jones, would benefits from the closures of clinics because she is head lobbyist for allied surgical centers and doctor-owned hospitals that has given $4 million to get Perry’s bill passed. The Texas Observer had pointed out that these facilities overcharge for tests, procedures, and services.

The Texas House committee passed the bill, that will close all except five clinics, onto the House which also approved the bill. They will take a formal vote on it tomorrow morning. Democrats pointed out that GOP committee leaders “limited testimony at a public hearing, declined to hear from hundreds more waiting to testify and refused to consider Democratic amendments–and at times even failed recognize Democrats to speak at all to raise questions.”

walkerMost of the GOP action last week surrounding anti-abortion bills took place in the dark of night, Wisconsin included. Gov. Scott Walker’s signature was barely dry when the new law was taken to federal court where a judge blocked part of the law for ten days. A hearing is scheduled for July 17. [Left: Scott Walker]

In his 19-page ruling, U.S. District Judge William Conley noted that the admitting-privileges provision of the new GOP law serves “no medical purpose” and was rushed into law for no apparent reason. It is up to state officials to prove that it safeguarded women’s health, he wrote, which he said “does not bear even superficial scrutiny on the current record.” He also agreed that the law had been rushed onto the books, noting that it was proposed, passed, signed and enacted in just 34 days, a timeline he called “precipitous.” 

“[T]he State,” Conley wrote, “must demonstrate that the regulation is reasonably related to ‘the preservation and protection of maternal health’ but it failed to do so.” In addition, he pointed out that “the majority of patients are at or below the federal poverty line.”

Last night 64 members of North Carolina’s “Moral Monday” protesters, now in their tenth week, were arrested for objecting to a bill that limits abortion access. The weekly rallies have grown from a few dozen in the early weeks to over 2,000 people. State GOP legislators claim that their protests make no difference, but the activities are beginning to affect tourism in the state.  The state Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker said, “The current environment makes it very challenging to market North Carolina.”

Last week’s bill mandating clinics performing abortions to conform to the standards of ambulatory surgery centers was pushed through the Senate without a public hearing. The state House has scheduled public hearings on the bill today.

Cecil Bothwell, a city councilman from Asheville (NC), summed up this attack on women: “It amazes me that they claim they don’t want government intervening in health care issues [about Obamacare], yet they want to tell women what to do with their bodies.”

Tanya Glover, 34, came to the protest because the legislature’s lean education budget slashes services for her special needs child. “This state has gone to hell and it’s hurting my family,” Glover said.

Her description fits the 30 states controlled by the GOP.

November 2, 2012

We Need to Vote!

Recent Barack Obama endorsements: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and The Economist!  For all his businesslike intentions, Mr. Romney has an economic plan that works only if you don’t believe most of what he says.”

One person can make a difference in the selection of the president for the next four years; in this case it may be Ohio’s Republican secretary of state John Husted. First, he fought for voter photo ID that would disenfranchise Democrats. Next, he continued to go to court to keep predominantly Democratic districts from early voting, particularly at nights and on weekends when blue-collar workers could go to the polls.

Not satisfied with these ploys, Husted is in charge of voting machines in a state where thousands of absentee ballot requests have been rejected. Husted said that it’s just a computer error, but the computers—owned by a company with connections to Mitt Romney—have dumped absentee ballot requests at an abnormally high rate in Cuyahoga County, a Democratic stronghold that includes Cleveland where 865 ballot requests have been erroneously thrown out.

Without the ability to vote by absentee, these voters are forced to go to the polls where they will probably be required to use a provisional ballot, which are notoriously thrown in the garbage. The total is 4,500 registered voters across the state left waiting for their absentee ballots while as many as 6,000 provisional ballots cast by registered voters could be tossed out. If by some good fortune the provisional ballots are counted, this won’t happen until November 17, according to state law.

Also, thanks to Husted, votes from people who vote in the wrong polling station because pollworkers directed them there will also be discounted, according to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. That was a common problem in the dysfunctional 2004 presidential election. How easy it is to get rid of votes—just sent voters to the wrong place. These are all the pieces that could add up to a win for Romney is a state with elected officials determined to be Republican no matter how many people vote Democratic.

That said, I want to talk about the importance of voting. On Monday, the day before Election Day, Oregon celebrates its 100th anniversary of woman suffrage, eight years before the nation followed suit in 1920. Today, I asked the owner of a small restaurant if she had voted. (Everyone in Oregon votes by mail.) She said that she planned to vote on Monday and that she was encouraging all her friends to vote although some of them said they might not bother. I told her to tell the young women that women starved themselves and were beaten and imprisoned so that they would have the right to vote. As for the men, I said to tell them that they should vote so that their girlfriends and wives could continue to get contraception.

Her friends who are considering not voting are joined by 90 million other people in the United States out of 207,643,594 eligible voters.    I understand why people caught in the storm and unable to get to the polls would not vote, but there is no excuse for the other “unlikely voters.” Two-thirds of these people are already registered to vote, and eight in 10 say the government plays an important role in their lives. But they’re too busy, or they don’t care much for either candidate, or their vote wouldn’t matter, or the president didn’t do everything he promised.

Another complaint that unlikely voters have is the negative tone to the campaigns. Ironically, the people who complain about this may determine their vote from the harsh lies told by one side or the other. If negative advertising didn’t work, candidates wouldn’t use this approach. But one woman who said she wouldn’t vote because of the negativity has never voted.

Yet over half the unlikely voters see a difference between the two major parties. By 43 to 18 percent, they support President Obama. Two-thirds of the unlikely voters say they voted four years ago. Yet four years ago, with enthusiasm at its high and no storm on the East Coast, almost 80 million people didn’t vote. Perhaps some of them had a sense of embarrassment in admitting that they didn’t vote. Almost half the unlikely voters have an annual household income of under $60,000, comparable to all eligible voters, and nearly six in 10 have no more than a high school diploma, again about the same percentage as eligible voters.

Asides: Even Fox servants are rebelling against the lies that the network spews out into the blogosphere. Appearing on Fox and Friends, Geraldo Rivera first called out host Eric Bolling for his claim that no one sent any help after the Benghazi attack. Rivera declared, “That is an obscene lie. You are a politician looking to make a political point.” When Bolling tried to assert that there were available rescue teams, Rivera continued to disagree, “You are misleading the American people because you want to make a political point. We have never in the history of this republic mounted a raid on the circumstance described here ever.” A new report, based on surveillance tapes, shows that the U.S. acted promptly following the attack.

Not happy with lies about Benghazi, Bolling and co-host Steve Doocy accused NBC of throwing a benefit tonight for storm victims rather than waiting for New York City to “get its feet under itself.” It’s like Michael Brown, Hurricane Katrina’s FEMA director, criticizing President Obama for rushing in to alert people about the storm rather than waiting a week after the disaster the way Brown did.  Bolling and Doocy, however, had no criticism for Romney’s faux “storm relief event.”

Concerned about Russia’s response to Romney’s harsh rhetoric, his son Matt traveled to Moscow on business and told a Russian known to deliver messages to President Vladimir V. Putin that his father wants good relations with Russia. Romney’s declaration that Russia “is without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe,” has caused alarm among Russian leadership regarding diplomatic relations between the two countries. Matt Romney was in Russia looking for investors for his California-based real estate firm, Excel, a real estate investment trust that avoids taxation by distributing 90 percent or more of its taxable income in the form of a dividend.

Voting lines are really long in Florida, partly because Gov. Rick Scott reduced the amount of time after then-Gov. Charlie Crist extended them in 2008—because the lines were really long. Democrats asked Scott to extend the amount of time; he refused but gave voters this advice: “I want everybody to get out to vote.”

When a non-partisan Congressional Research Service documented that giving tax breaks to the rich helps concentrate wealth at the top but doesn’t boost the economy, Republican lawmakers, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), had the report killed this past week. McConnell follows the Republican Bush tradition of elimination information such as an increase in terrorism in 2005, increased factory closings in the same year, and under-performing charter schools.

The auto bailout that Romney complains about was good for his family: they personally profited at least $15.3 million. The bad news for Romney is the discovery that his June 1, 2012, Public Financial Disclosure Report to the Office of Government Ethics did not reveal this windfall because he did not disclose the underlying holdings of his private equity and limited partnership funds. The worse news is that a number of groups are calling on the U.S. Office of Government Ethics to investigate Romney for noncompliance with the Ethics in Government Act and compel him to either disclose his investments or divest them.

Last April, Bishop Daniel Jenky, head of a Catholic diocese in Illinois, used his mass to compare President Obama and Senate Democrats to Hitler and Stalin. Now he has mandated every priest in his diocese to read a letter indicating that parishioners’ salvation is based on voting the right way—no mention of President Obama but it’s obvious. Nicholas DiMarzio, a New York Catholic bishop, expressed similar sentiments last week. The wall between church and state is tattered.

Steven Benen has counted 917 lies out of Romney’s mouth this past year—but there could be more. We still have four days to go!

Even corporation executives are fed up with the lies—especially when their companies are affects. Trump, from his Twitter account, said, “Obama is a terrible negotiator. He bails out Chrysler and now Chrysler wants to send all Jeep manufacturing to China–and will!” Chrysler’s head of product design Ralph Gilles, from his Twitter account, answered Trump: “You are full of shit!”

While all this is happening, George W. Bush is in the Cayman Islands, giving the keynote speech at a conference on how to avoid paying taxes to the United States.

My last word: there will be a special The Rachel Maddow Show on Sunday!

October 23, 2012

Voter Fraud Comes from Those Who Control Elections

The debates are over, and the countdown to Election Day 2012 is the focus.

Never before has a presidential candidate owned voting machines in the United States. This year, the voting machine provider Hart Intercivic counting the votes in crucial swing counties of Ohio, Colorado, and elsewhere throughout the country has extensive corporate ties to the Mitt Romney. Ohio is well aware of the problems after a state-commissioned study in Ohio labeled labeled its voting system a “failure” when it comes to protecting the integrity of election.

This is not new news. Reports of Hart Intercivic’s ties to Romney first surfaced almost a month ago when a blog post by Gerry Bello and Bob Fitrakis in The Free Press, an Ohio website reported that a key investor in Hart was HIG Capital, seven of whose directors were former employees of Bain & Co. HIG Capital announced its investment in Hart on July 6, 2011, just one month after Romney formally announced the launch of his presidential campaign.

Four of the HIG directors are Romney bundlers along with former Bain and H.I.G. manager Brian Shortsleeve. According to the Center for Responsive politics, HIG Capital contributed $338,000 to the Romney campaign this year. The Nation also reported that HIG Capital is tied to the Romney family via Solamere, a private equity firm that has invested in HIG and is run by Tagg Romney, the candidate’s son.

Suspicion of computer fraud in Ohio goes back to 2004. Although Democrat John Kerry had a 4.2 percent lead in the exit polls in Ohio, which would have given him the presidency, George W. Bush won the state by more than two points and, as a result, kept the White House.

Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, had contracted with SmarTech, a Tennessee-based tech firm indirectly tied to Karl Rove, to serve as the “failover” site for 2004 election results in Ohio. At approximately 11:14 p.m. on Election Night, SmarTech became part of the process, at the same time that the Ohio returns were characterized by anomalies involving the tabulation of punch cards, electronic voting machines of various types, spectacularly high turnouts in pro-Bush precincts, and turnouts in pro-Kerry precincts that were astoundingly low. Virtually all the irregularities favored Bush, and the vast majority of them remain unexplained.

A 2007 study, commissioned by Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to evaluate Hart and other voting systems in the 2004 elections in Ohio concluded that the Hart system performed “poorly” because unauthorized individuals could gain access to memory cards and “easily tamper” with core voting data and that Hart scored a “zero” on the twelve-step baseline comparison because it “failed to meet any of the twelve basic best practices” necessary to have a secure system.

In addition, the report asserted that the Hart system “lacks the technical protections necessary to guarantee a trustworthy election under operational conditions.” The concluding words show what will happen two weeks from today: “The vulnerabilities and features of the system work in concert to provide ‘numerous opportunities to manipulate election outcomes or cast doubt on legitimate election activities….virtually every ballot, vote, election result, and audit log is ‘forgeable or otherwise manipulatable by an attacker with even brief access to the voting systems.’”

The system has not been upgraded since that time.

Not satisfied with all the obstructions that Ohio has put in the way of voters with limited time for voting, the Republican-controlled Ottawa County sent an elections mailer to 2,300 voters in the northern Ohio county telling them that they are to vote on November 8 and giving them the wrong place for voting. [Please remember that Election Day is November 6!]

Another false mailing came out in Pennsylvania. PECO, the Philadelphia power company, sent a newsletter to 840,000 customers in its October billing with an announcement that voters must have a valid photo ID, something that the court overturned for the upcoming election. The company said that their website will have an update announcement and information will be corrected in the next mailing which goes out in four days. But the situation has been muddied with the court ruling that people can be asked if they have photo ID for the election. The logic is missing: people don’t have to have photo IDs, but they can be asked if they have them, an act that can be intimidating .

Who are some of the other people who may not be able to vote? One group of victims are transpeople whose faces may not match the gender on their identification. Many of these people are in transition with no official state recognition of their gender. More than 25,000 transgender people may lose their right to vote because of revised photo ID laws.

“New voter ID laws have created costly barriers to voting for many trans people. And much worse, the debate about voter ID laws have made even the idea of voting harder so many of us may feel discouraged from even trying to vote on election day,” said Executive Director Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling.

Native Americans will be disproportionately disenfranchised by the new voter ID laws. The National Congress of American Indians has released a report Monday that highlights the problems. Two of the states, Alaska and Florida, do not accept tribal ID cards for identification at the polls. Gun permits yes, government-issued tribal cards no.

Another serious issue for Native Americans is the requirement that voters provide home addresses. Some tribal communities have not street addresses. And as always “barriers of cost, logistics and distance to obtaining required IDs” can be a serious problems.

Six “states of concern” for Native voter access are Alaska, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. New ID laws also could disproportionately affect Native voters in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Washington. NCAI President Jefferson Keel said there are races that could hinge on the Native vote. Several of the affected states with a large Native American population are considered swing states in the decision of the next president.

Wait until you hear the screaming from the far right about the need for photo ID because 899 ballots have been cast by 112-year-old voters in North Carolina. But it’s not fraud at all; it’s a system that the Board of Elections uses. Until the 1980s, people in North Carolina didn’t have to give birthdates, just their ages. Because there was no birthdate, the Board of Elections used a default of Jan. 1, 1900, for the birthday.

Once again, there’s no need for voter photo IDs. There is a need, however, to have accurate voting records so that each person’s vote counts instead of being manipulated by the company that owns the computers.

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